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View Diary: Newt Gingrich floats polling test, denies playing race card (108 comments)

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  •  Please read the racist history of literacy tests (11+ / 0-)

    offered in part by the link of above --quoted below

    the history in the US has been decidedly racist -- i imagine a present incarnation would be too

    Today, most citizens register to vote without regard to race or color by signing their name and address on something like a postcard. But it was not always so.

    Prior to passage of the federal Voting Rights Act in 1965, Southern (and some Western) states maintained elaborate voter registration procedures whose primary purpose was to deny the vote to those who were not white. In the South, this process was often referred to as a "literacy test." In fact, it was much more than a simple test, it was an entire complex system devoted to denying African-Americans (and in some regions, Latinos and Native Americans) the right to vote.

    The registration procedures, and the Registrars who enforced them, were just one part of this interlocking system of racial discrimination and oppression. The various state, county, and local police forces — all white of course — routinely intimidated and harassed Blacks who tried to register. They arrested would-be voters on false charges and beat others for imagined transgressions; and often this kind of retribution was directed not only at the man or woman who dared try to register, but against their family members as well, even the children.

    Throughout the deep South, white businesses, employers, banks, and landlords were organized into White Citizens Councils who imposed economic retaliation against non-whites who tried to vote. Evictions. Firings. Boycotts. Foreclosures. Under the southern sharecrop system, tenant-farmers had to have an annual crop-loan each year in order to survive. Banks denied those loans to Blacks who tried to vote, forcing them off the land.

    And if economic pressure proved insufficient, the Ku Klux Klan was ready with violence and mayhem. Cross-burnings. Night riders. Beatings. Rapes. Church bombings. Arson of businesses and homes. Murder and mob lynchings, drive-by shootings and sniper assassinations. Today these people would be called "terrorists," but back then the white establishment saw them as defenders of "Southern heritage" and the "Southern way of life."

    While in theory there were standard state-wide registration procedures, in real-life the individual Registrars and clerks did things their own way. The exact procedure varied from county to county, and within a county it varied from day to day according to the mood of the Registrar. And, of course, it almost always varied according to the race of the applicant.

    •  The future doesn't have to imitate the past (0+ / 0-)

      Just because literacy tests were racist in practice in the US doesn't mean they have to be racist in the future. Gingrich could easily spin this as a call for higher educational standards, especially with younger voters who don't remember how these tests were perverted by racist state governments. Lord knows we do need higher educational standards, especially in history. Well, especially in everything, but the crap that gets taught as US history in too many K-12 jurisdiction . . . Texas, anyone?

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